Codex committee debates dairy standards

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cheese Milk

A Codex committee meets this week to hammer out international
standards for the dairy industry, including contentious issues such
as who can label their cheese as "parmesan".

The meeting forms part of an ongoing programme to create international food safety standards under the Codex Alimentarius, a body set up by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

The standards could eventually affect the way processors operate worldwide as they become incorporated into national laws.

The meeting, which ends on 1 April, will consider amendments to Codex's general standard for cheese. The committee will also debate draft standards for skimmed milk, in which the milk fat has been replace with vegetable fat. Other topics include draft standards for whey cheeses, and various types of cheeses such as danbo, cheddar and parmesian.

At a previous meeting last year member countries agreed to retain the revised amendment to the general standard for cheese due to the lack of consensus on the establishment of a numerical value for minimum protein content.?

The Committee has since asked for comments on what values for minimum protein content should be set for cheese, the justification for these values and the means of their expression, either as on a dry matter basis or mass by mass basis.?

The committee agreed last time to a revised text, which did not rule out protein concentration of milk prior to cheese making or the use of other dairy ingredients, and which provided clarity to the fact that protein increase during cheese making related in particular to casein.

The committee is also looking at revised standards for individual cheeses, processed cheese, dairy spreads, fermented milk drinks, export certificates, analysis and sampling methods, extra hard grating cheese and on the naming of non-standardized dairy products.

At a key meeting last year the central decision making Codex body was unable to make a decision on the outstanding issue of intellectual property concerns over the labelling and composition of parmesan cheese.

The issue was sent back to the milk standards committee for further consideration.

On the issue of who may label their cheese as "parmesan", the EU said it would oppose the standard setting body and wants the organisation to drop the debate. The EU says the Codex is the wrong forum to debate on the right of "geographical indications" and "intellectual property" over such products.

Instead the EU is pursuing the issue at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and at the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation in defense of Italian producers.

Parmesan is a French inspired translation of ?Parmigiano-Reggiano?, which is a protected designation of origin in the territory of the EU and may only be used by Italian producers, who are up in arms about cheese manufactured in North and South America and sold as under the name. The EU argues the use outside of Italy infringes the 'geographical indication' intellectual property mark.

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